Nasi Ulam (Herb Rice Salad) is a feature in Malay cuisine, usually it’s a steamed rice mixed with various herbs, vegetables, spices and accompanied with various side dishes. There’s 2 popular variation – Nasi Ulam on the northwest Peninsular Malaysia and Nasi Kerabu (with rice dyed blue) on the northeast Peninsular Malaysia, in state of Kelantan and Terengganu.
Nasi Kerabu is one of the classic dishes of Kelantan. Kerabu is Malay salad with a mixture of herbs, vegetables and fruits. Just like the northern Nasi Ulam recipe, Nasi Kerabu Kelantan is also a very healthy dish, that requires a lot of slicing action of herbs and vegetables. But Nasi Kerabu requires much more tedious preparation work due to many components that makes up the dish. If you know me by now, I would skip a tedious recipe. Actually my eyes did start to glaze before I could reach half of the instruction.. It happens every time I read something complicated, scientific or historical, it’s like my mind just automatically switched to ‘sleeping mode’.
For me to go through all that “pain”, the dish have to be really terrific. If I see Nasi Kerabu sold at pasar malam (night market) or any restaurants, I would order it. And my love for Nasi Kerabu has pulled me through this laborious cooking attempt. Sweating (the temperatures are high and dry now) through almost 3 hours in the kitchen with the most elaborate dish I’ve ever attempted, making Nasi Kerabu Kelantan is so worth it!
The basic Nasi Kerabu comprises of rice, mixture of herbs & vegetable (ulam), coconut flaked fish (kerisik sambal ikan) and coconut sauce (sambal tumis kelapa). Besides the most common Blue rice (Nasi Biru), there’s other variation of the rice served – white (plain white rice), yellow (with turmeric) and grey (from Mengkudu leaves / Noni). The blue color of rice results from cooking in the butterfly-pea flowers (bunga telang). A few months earlier, my reader Carina send me some dried butterfly-pea flowers (which I never got around using), and the weekend before, mama gave me a bunch of fresh ones from her friend’s house. She would add a handful to her rice because there’s no ‘blue’ food in her daily diet, so this flower completes the “blue” in the colour foodchart. Some people say the flower has some health benefits but it has not been scientifically proven.
With the basic Nasi Kerabu, it can served with these side dishes/accompaniments:
Prawn Crackers (Keropok)
Boiled Salted Egg (Telur Masin)
Fish Stuffed Chilli (Solok Lada)
Turmeric Fried Fish (Ikan Goreng Tepung) – recipe below
Grilled Beef (Daging Bakar) - recipe below
Fried Chicken (Ayam Goreng)
Would I attempt this recipe again? I would (knowingly I would simplify the recipe), most like just the basic Nasi Kerabu
- Cooked Blue Rice
- Mixture of Herb and Vegetable (Ulam)
- Coconut Sauce (Sambal Tumis Kelapa)
- Coconut Flaked Fish (Kerisik Sambal Ikan)
- Choice of Accompaniments (optional)
- 200 gm (1 cup) Rice
- 8 Butterfly pea flower (Bunga Telang) - soaked in hot water or a few drops of blue coloring
- 2 Kaffir Lime Leaves (Daun Limau Purut) - optional
- 1 stalk Lemongrass - bruised (optional)
- 1 Mackerel - grilled/pan fry and remove the flesh
- 80g Grated Coconut
- ½ teaspoon Salt
- 1 teaspoon Sugar
- 4 Shallots
- 1cm Ginger - peeled
- ¼ tsp ground White pepper
- 3 Dried Chillies - soaked with hot water to soften
- 4 Shallots - peeled
- 300ml Coconut Milk
- 1 piece Dried Sour Fruit (Asam Gelugur / Asam Keping)
- 1 stalk Lemongrass (serai) - lightly bruised
- ½ teaspoon sugar
- ½ teaspoon salt - optional
- 1 teapoon Budu / Salted Anchovy Sauce - optional
- Cucumber (did not use)
- Cabbage Leaves
- Bean Sprouts (Taugeh) - do not slice
- Long Beans
- Four Angled Bean (Kacang Botol)
- Vietnamese Mint (Daun Kesum)
- Kaffir Lime Leaves (Daun Limau Purut)
- Lemongrass (Serai)
- Torch Ginger Buds (Bunga Kantan)
- Daun Penna
- Cashew nuts leaves / Pucuk Gajus
- Prawn Crackers (Keropok)
- Boiled Salted Egg (Telur Masin)
- Fried Fish (Ikan Goreng Tepung)
- Grilled Beef (Daging Bakar)
- Fried Chicken (Ayam Goreng)
- Wash and drain the rice. Soak the rice with the butterfly pea flower water for 10 minutes (if using). Add in kaffir lime leaves and lemongrass and cook the rice as usual. If you are just using blue coloring, drop a few drops of the color and cook as usual.
- Dry fry the grated coconut in wok/pan until lightly brown.
- Pound shallot & ginger in pestle and mortar. Add in coconut and other ingredients, pound to mix well. If you do not have pestle and mortar, use a grinder/blender.
- Combine dried chilies and shallots by grinding or blending in a blender. Into a pot, put coconut milk, ground chilies and shallots, dried sour fruit slices and lemongrass. Bring to a slow boil.
- Simmer gently, stirring constantly for 10 minutes or until oil separates. However, if you are using canned coconut, the oil will not separate no matter how long you cook. In this instance, just cook until the gravy thickens.
- Add sugar and salt or budu (whichever one you prefer), then transfer to a serving bowl.
- 4 small Mackerel (Ikan Kembung)
- 1 teaspon Tamarind pulp (Asam Jawa) + 2 tablespoon Water - strained
- 6 tablespoon Cooking oil or more
- ½ cup rice flour / tepung beras
- 60ml Water
- ½ tsp Turmeric powder
- a pinch of Salt
- Rub fish with salt and tamarind juice, marinate for 15 minutes.
- Meanwhile, prepare flour batter. Combine flour, water, turmeric and salt, mix until smooth.
- Heat wok with cooking oil for shallow frying (until it starts to bubble when chopstick is dipped in). Dip marinated fish into batter and shallow fry in hot oil for 2 - 3 minutes on each side. When cooked through and light golden, drain fish and transfer to a serving dish.
- 150 gm of any tender cut Beef
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoon Turmeric powder
- 1 tablespoon Oil
- Marinate beef with salt and turmeric (preferably for a few hours).
- Rub the grill pan with some oil and place on low heat. (If you are using oven or toaster grill, rub the wire tray with oil and pre-heat oven to 400F/180C).
- Rub beef pieces with oil and place onto the oiled pan. Grill for about 15 minutes on each side. or until the surface looks dry. (If using oven or toaster, grill for 40 minutes turning once every ten minutes). Leave beef to cool down and slice thinly to serve.